War of the Bounty Hunters: Star Wars #15 gives us a fun and interesting story about Luke Skywalker

The War of the Bounty Hunters continues!

I’ve been reading along each week, but I’m a bit behind on my reviews of each issue, so I’m catching up. Star Wars #15, written by Charles Soule, is one of the most marginally connected issues to this whole crossover event it seems, but it nonetheless was one I enjoyed very much – giving us a look at a fun Luke Skywalker mission.

Let’s jump in to a review!

SUMMARY:

Luke Skywalker prepares to fly off on a mission with Wedge Antilles and Starlight Squadron, filling in while Shara Bey is still in the grasp of the Empire. L’ulo L’ampar mentions that for all General Organa’s talk about hope, the Rebellion needs more than just talk: they need a win. So Luke tells them that after this mission, he’s heading off to Jekara, following a lead on Captain Han Solo, which L’ulo agrees would be the kind of win he’s referring to.

The squad arrives at Ab Dalis, a devastated planet that was the site of a disaster a few hundred years earlier. But the squad begins picking up signals from a Rebel cell pinned down on the planet’s surface by heavy Imperial attacks, desperately trying to hold out against the siege led by Imperial Admiral Kalaxo. As the Rebel squad of fighters descends, they are met by TIE Fighters. They get word to the Rebel cell on the ground, and upon realizing that the Heros of Yavin themselves, Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles, are there, the cell immediately picks up some hope. They get to work and figure out a plan, alerting the pilots to attack the planet directly beneath the looming Star Destroyer.

The target is about three meters wide, so Wedge says it sounds like a job for Luke Skywalker. As the other pilots provide cover, Luke makes his run – but as he does so, he’s plagued with visions of what happened at the Death Star, but this time Vader wins. Distracted by all of this, Luke misses the shot. But the rest of the squad picks him up, hitting the shot and triggering an explosion that reaches far enough into the air to obliterate the Star Destroyer. Luke apologizes to the other pilots for his miss, but they tell him that everyone misses sometimes.

The pilots are then contacted by the leader of this Rebel cell and realize that it’s none other than Mon Mothma, the leader of the Rebel Alliance, accompanied by Admiral Ackbar. Rescuing Mothma provides the win that L’ulo was referring to.

Later, as Luke approaches Jekara, he contacts Leia – who has been confronted by Boba Fett and says she’ll call him back, as things just got complicated. Luke tries to get a signal through nonetheless, saying that he’s had a vision: of Darth Vader coming after Han. As he says this, we see Vader looking on at the Crimson Dawn ship, ready to join the party.

REVIEW:

This issue was only marginally connected to the War of the Bounty Hunters story, but it was still one of my favorite issues in this whole series so far.

Let’s start with that connection to the larger crossover event: Luke’s going to meet up with Leia, Lando, and Chewie on Jekara after he runs this mission with Starlight Squadron. I noted this in a previous review and I still hold to it: I’m not a big fan of Luke taking this mission when there’s such a legitimate lead on Han Solo. Maybe he’s just waiting for it to be confirmed… but this is the guy who dropped everything to go help his friends. Sure, Wedge is his friend too, but I think Wedge would understand why Luke would have to go. It’s just very strange to me that Luke would be delaying going after Han like this, so I’m not a fan – but it did lead to a good story, as I’ll explain in a moment.

Anyway, the connection to the crossover mainly comes in the final two pages, as Luke approaches the planet. But we’ve already seen Boba Fett confronting the Rebels on the ground, as well as Darth Vader arriving at the party, in War of the Bounty Hunters #2. To me, this second wave of issues in this series has been weaker overall because it’s all basically ending with Vader showing up. There’s no advancing the story; it’s all leadup to it. Over and over again. It seems that we’re just treading water in-between the main War of the Bounty Hunters comics right now.

So in a strange way, this story telling a totally different story actually probably made me like it better, because at least it was fresh and not repetitive. And I’d argue that the main way that this whole comic fits in is the theme of hope. That’s been a key theme in this whole Star Wars run so far, and we’re reminded that for the Rebellion, hope comes from rescuing their friends. I’m reminded of the words of Rose Tico – winning comes by saving what you love. Whether that’s by saving Han Solo, saving Mon Mothma, or saving Rebels we’ve never heard of, that’s what the whole fight is about. That’s why they’re fighting – to save what they love. And that’s why they’re after Han Solo. Whereas other parties are after Solo for selfish gain, or to make a profit, or to defeat Skywalker (one guess who THAT is), the Rebels are in it to save Solo.

And so this issue really takes us on a side mission, one that shows the Rebels fighting to save others. It’s great to see Luke flying alongside Wedge and these other pilots, and it’s certainly a big deal that this leads to them reuniting with Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar. That’s a hugely significant development for the scattered Alliance in the wake of the defeat at Hoth.

But there’s another development that’s just as interesting, and it’s Luke Skywalker missing the shot. I thought it was brilliant storytelling here. When Luke and Wedge show up, the Rebels on the ground are encouraged that the Heroes of Yavin are there (I’m glad Wedge is getting some credit for that too), believing that just maybe these six fighters can actually turn the tide of the fight. And then when the pilots learn about the size of the target, Wedge immediately says that it’s a job for Skywalker. Because why not? He blew up the Death Star, after all! So everyone in this issue recognizes Skywalker’s heroics and knows that he can do it. As he makes his approach, we believe the same!

Then he misses the shot. He’s haunted by visions of the Trench Run going wrong, of Vader firing on the Millennium Falcon and emerging victorious. Of Han’s rescue attempt going wrong. Of Vader coming after Han. And it distracts Luke greatly. We later learn that Luke interprets this as a vision from the Force that Vader is indeed coming after Han, which proves to be true. But in the moment, it also goes to show us that this is a rattled hero. He’s still haunted by everything that has happened; he’s learned that Vader is his father and lost one of his closest friends – the one who came back for him to save him from Vader during the Battle of Yavin.

One other thing I really liked about this issue was the appearance of Ab Dalis. All that’s mentioned is that it was the site of a disaster a few hundred years earlier, where something came blasting out of hyperspace and into the planet, but we know more of the story. It appeared first in Light of the Jedi as the site of one of the emergences with the Great Disaster, as part of the Legacy Run emerged from hyperspace and crashed into the planet, killing many people and rendering the planet nearly uninhabitable. This is a nice connection to the High Republic, which is cool.

This issue tells a very fun story – and let’s be honest: it’s always great to get more stories about these pilots flying a mission like this – and it feels significant to this time period as well. It creates more intrigue and characterization for Luke Skywalker as we lead up to Return of the Jedi, and it all winds up tying into the larger War of the Bounty Hunters story, if only marginally. It’s a great issue, and I really enjoyed it. You don’t need to read this one to keep up with the overall story, but I think you’ll like it if you do.

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